An Inspiration On and Off the Court

On February 24, 2021 CH College Counselor Kim Oden participated in the Women’s Volleyball Conversation panel as part of Stanford University’s CardinalW Week: A Tradition of Excellence. 
Mrs. Oden, star volleyball player who graduated Stanford in 1986, was joined by three other illustrious female student-athlete alumnae who shared their experiences about being volleyball champions, discussed how the sport has evolved, and imparted advice to viewers.

Mrs. Oden was the first Olympian in the program’s history and returned later to Stanford to coach the team to numerous victories. When she was asked how her volleyball experience influenced her life outside the sport, Mrs. Oden responded that “you are not always going to be perfect, but you aim for it.” She also reflected on how this past year has been tough on everyone, but that her experience as an athlete, which included dancing with her teammates in the locker room before games to get pumped up, taught her that one should “not minimize joy.” This, she noted, “will sustain you for the long run.”

The panel was also asked how their identity had influenced their experience. Mrs. Oden reflected: “When I started, I was the only African American at a tryout for a volleyball club in Newport Beach out of 300 people. I was used to being the ‘only.’ Then I understood that there were obstacles for why there were so few Black girls playing volleyball: cost, location, transportation, etc. It has improved, but many of those same barriers are still in place in the U.S. today.”

In 1996, she and her good friend Byron Shewman joined forces to create a new volleyball club for inner city girls. “We coached the first team in San Diego that was primarily African American,” Mrs. Oden said. And with that, the Starlings Volleyball club was born. “Not only do we teach the great sport of volleyball to girls who wouldn’t otherwise get that opportunity, but we are also speaking positively into their lives and encouraging them to attend and graduate from high school and college. About 90% of our students graduate high school and about 700 have attended college since the program began.”

Mrs. Oden gave final words of wisdom to aspiring players: “If you choose to be on a team, you have to think bigger than yourself. If you don’t, it can be extremely detrimental. The second piece of advice I would give is to work for what you want. Don’t expect someone to give it to you. Earn your spot.”

Click here to view the panel discussion.
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